Ol' Man River

Cityside

There'll be pinatas and puppeteers, murals and magicians, balloons and bluegrass, choreographed searchlights, Chinese dragon boat races, and even a medievel jousting tournament. The third annual Cambridge River Festival kicks off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on Cambridge Common when Rufus Harley, the world's only jazz bagpiper, leads a procession to the Charles River for its official dedication on the National Register of Historic Places. A seven-story hot-air balloon will be inflated, and 300 homing pigeons will be released.

During the week the festival will encompass literally the entire city of Cambridge, with over 1000 musicians, artists and dancers, in addition to hundreds of volunteer residents, students, businesses and community groups, celebrating the culture, history and "flavor" of each of the city's neighborhoods on a different day. For instance, next Thursday evening at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Japanese, tap, jazz and improvisational dance forms will be performed alongside Renaissance, Scottish highland and Indian flute music. Friday in Central Square a Greek dance group will be followed by a Haitian folk singer; later on a Puerto Rican singing group and a reggae band will play.

The week's events climax next Saturday afternoon along both banks of the river, between the Western Ave. and Eliot St. bridges. Last year nearly 100,000 people viewed the environmental art, sampled the ethnic food, or just listened to the music on the festival's final day, and Molly Miller, publicity director for the Cambridge Arts Council, which sponsors and organizes the festival, predicts a similar turnout this year. "Our goal is to improve the quality of life in the whole city," she explains. "There'll be one artist to every 100 Cambridge residents."

What if it rains, as was the case with, much of last year's festival? Many events will be cancelled, although the Saturday events are rain-dated for Sunday, May 20. Miller is, of course, praying for sunshine, but, she acknowledges, the festival "is also a celebration of spring--and rain's a part of spring, I guess."